Seat “Chopping” And A Non-Existence Bazooka Lens

A quick doodle

Two unrelated stories to share here.  One from Cynthia.  One from me.

What is seat chopping?  For those who live in Singapore, we all know what this means.  For my overseas readers, no, we don’t literally chop seats here.  We simply don’t chop anything in Singapore.  Not even the trees.  We move or relocate the trees along the highway when we have the need to add an extra lane or two.

So what does “chop” mean in Singapore?  To be honest, I am not born and bred here.  The word’s origin to me is fuzzy.  I interpret the word or verb quote-unquote chop as “occupy or obtain ahead of one’s need while denying others of the resource or opportunity”.  A clumsy interpretation I admit.  But by now you should how clumsy I can be with words.

Monday afternoon, Cynthia met with her Indonesian girl friend from Bali and they have not met each other for more than a decade.  Under a hot sun, they walked from point A to point B.  The sun was so hot that it gave Cynthia a headache till the evening, as she recounted her afternoon story to me inside our car.  I do not know where point A was.  But point B was a food court at Tanjong Pagar, a location Cynthia seldom roams.  Lunch time near the city center, we know how crowded the eateries can be.  So while Cynthia queued up for food, her friend carrying tons of shopping bags was tasked to look for a table.

Cynthia’s friend has found a table in a nice and quiet area.  As Cynthia placed the food onto the table, she noticed a package of tissue paper as well as a fold up newspaper.  Too late to do anything now.  In Singapore, white collar workers often “chop” the seats with packets of tissue paper put onto the empty seats or tables.  After a seat is confirmed or reserved, they head out to look for food, queue up for food.  Personally, I do not do that, unless I am with a group of seat choppers.  I do not do that because by the time I look for food, queue up for food, get my food, one or two persons could have benefited from the seat.  Especially so for some of the more crowded eateries like Amoy Street Food Court.  The flip side is, by the time I get my food, I would be faced with a sea of tissue paper and empty seats reserved by the seat choppers.

Not long after Cynthia and her friend started eating their meal, a Singaporean woman came by the table taking back the package of tissue paper and the newspaper.  And she said, “Did you know that these seats are chop?  Are you new here?”  Cynthia was about to leave the table while her friend was reluctant to do likewise, imagine having to carry her shopping bags and her meal.  Cynthia’s friend replied with her Indonesian accent …

“No, I do not know.  I am from Indonesia.”  And she signaled to Cynthia and continued, “And she is not from Tanjong Pagar.”

Cynthia is not from Tanjong Pagar?!

I was laughing in tears when I heard Cynthia’s friend’s reply.  And so was she.

The Singaporean woman – friendly as it seemed – said, “It’s OK.  We have found another table.  Just to let you know, this is the culture here [in Singapore].”

Singapore culture?  Really?

PS. I have nothing against seat choppers.  Just so to let you know that I am still your friend.

*     *     *     *     *

Monday morning, my sister dropped me a message in Facebook asking me to check out her comment on one of my blog entries.  Lora had a phone conversation with our mom in Hong Kong.  She ended the message with: It is quite funny and I hope you won’t faint.

Rewind to a week or so ago, my mom called me on my home phone.  And she acted quite strange, repeatedly commenting on how expensive my lenses are.  She even threw in some numbers and I was shocked that she knew the price of camera gears.  The numbers did not seem right but I was not thinking much.  In fact, I confess that I was not 100% with the phone call.  I am a lousy person to have a meaningful phone conversation with.  My attention simply drifts before the first minute is up.

So I replied, “Well, these are quality lenses and the photographs look great, no?”  And my mother went on and on about how rich I have become.

Over the weekend, my mom called my sister and said, “You brother has bought a lens for S$20,000!”  I can imagine my sister was as shocked as I would have been had I pay attention to what my mom had said over the phone.  In my defence, my sister mentioned that it is not possible to spend that kind of money on camera gears.  My mom insisted that she has read it in my website, together with dad as the witness.

Uh-oh.  My parents are reading what I write here?  How?  They do not read English!

Apparently, technology is so advance these days that websites can be translated into another language on the fly.  But not so advance to accurately translate the meaning of I wish I have that bazooka lens that costs S$20,000.  This gives ‘lost in translation’ a whole new meaning.  If I have that kind of money to blow, my photograph of the moon would certainly look better than this.

30 thoughts on “Seat “Chopping” And A Non-Existence Bazooka Lens”

  1. Incidentally, I was having the same ‘seat chopping’ conversation with my Kiwi friend this afternoon.

    This ‘ability’ has been identified as one of the ‘core tests’ to whether I’ve acclimatized back to being a true Singaporean 😉

  2. Haha! Yeah i think it is a singapore thing. But because my colleagues and I never quite remember carrying a packet of tissue paper so we end up not doing that haha.

    I am just curious if the design of the tissue pack is that of a leaf? If so why? Though after a second look, I thought it looks like a booming lotus root too.

    Oh! Your parents read your blog too 🙂 Thats sweet!

    1. Si Ying – Oh, I copy from the Scott design. Next time when you visit NTUC, check out the Scott tissue paper. I think the design looks somewhat like my drawing … ha ha ha.

      Not sure if my parents really get what I am trying to say though. Lost in translation is a scary thing … lol.

      1. Oh I will look out for it the next time!

        haha yeah. but i think other than say facts like how much you spend on the lens, ppl usually have different interpretations of a piece of writing. which could be fun too

        1. Si Ying – Hehehe … I am OK with people have different interpretation on a piece of writing. People should. I am a bit not too sure if I am that OK on how a piece of writing in its original language is being translated via a piece of software 🙂

  3. I don’t find it valid for that woman to say it’s ‘Singapore culture’ and to question Cynthia and her friend if they are new. Although if that happened to me I wouldn’t know how to respond, since I do know of its existence.

    Btw, I usually call it ‘chope’ since it rhymes with ‘hope’ and not chop…so it should spell choping instead.

    1. Nana – I also wouldn’t know how to respond, ha ha ha. Fortunately, Cynthia’s friend is really new to Singapore so that she could reply with conviction!

      Hmmm …. interesting spelling. Maybe you are right because although I have lived here for 14 years, I have no idea how certain ‘Singlish’ is spelled.

  4. We have a few strange things in the country.

    1) We called a dish Satay Bee Hoon which is a dish that doesn’t have satay in it.

    2) We have our beloved slice fish soup that can make a foreigner wonder why wasn’t it served with knife? How do I ‘slice’ the fish soup with a pair of chopsticks?

    1. Alfred – Wow …. I thought having lived here for 14 years, I have known quite a number of local dishes. We have a dish called Satay Bee Hoon? I have got to try that next time (if it doesn’t have meat inside that is).

      I like your observation on slice fish soup. So true! Ha ha ha.

  5. AHAHHA
    I am having a really crappy morning but guess what, I laughed so hard I am feeling super happy now!
    Your mom is so cute going on about how rich you have become!

    p/s I am an avid seat chopper! 😛

    1. AY – A few items off my head (that I often see) are: (1) tissue paper, (2) umbrella, (3) newspaper, (4) pamphlet, (5) company access card (!!) – in that order.

      Cynthia just verified the list … lol.

          1. I don’t think you can chop a seat with a packet of tissue in HK. Hong Kong people don’t do that.

            First, in HK the need is not there. We normally order our food and the waiter will serve you even if you are eating in hawker centre. One difference between HK and SG is that in HK, we need to agree with each other which shop to go today instead of every one queuing for different kinds of food.

            Of course, you still need to queue up for food in those fast food shop like McDonald. However, make sure you have one person sitting there physically to reserve the seat. Otherwise, I am afraid some people will be using your tissue or reading your newspaper when you come back with your food. We will just treat the ‘chopping weapons’ as someone left their belongings behind. (We just haven’t thought that someone is ‘reserving’ his/her seat in this way.) If you dare to question them why they take your seat, I guess we will be very surprised and may laugh at your ‘innocence’…. 😛

            1. Lora – Ha ha ha … that is funny. Cynthia said if people are to leave the tissue paper and newspapers at the seats, they will be gone as someone would have taken them for their own use!

  6. Ya… ‘Chop’ the seat is also something I learnt in Singapore. If I go for lunch with my colleagues (local seat choppers) in a bigger group, they will automatically ‘chop’ the seats… and being part of the group, (though feel a quite embarrassing to do so) I will ‘contribute’ my tissue… Normal days, I don’t… just feel too ‘pie say’ (Singulish… haha..) to do so… 😛

    But I find that Singaporena woman was very thick skin to ‘challenge’ Cyn’s friend. Definitely, this is not something to be proud of… I guess….?

    BTW, Satay Bee Hong is VERY nice~! To me, the dish that has the strangest name is Wanton Noodle. I can’t understand why I order Wanton but they also give me ‘Cha Yiu’ (the pork) which is TOTALLY different??!!

    1. Lora – You are learning the Singapore ‘culture’ fast! At last Singlish … hehehe.

      Indeed, I had a different idea of what wanton noodle is, coming from Hong Kong.

      Ya, that lady was pretty vocal 🙂

  7. Hahahaha… Both encounters were so funny!

    Honestly speaking, I haven’t been a seat chopper yet… Like you, I typically let my friends do that or I won’t do that on my own at all.

    I am so impressed with your parents ability to find something to translate your blog! 🙂

    1. Alfred – And the wanton mee doesn’t come with roasted pork, I think that is what my sister Lora was trying to say.

      I was born in Hong Kong, studied in UK and then met a bunch of great Southeast Asian friends whom inspired me to move over to this region. Took up Singapore citizenship shortly after I have landed here. That’s my story!

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